State housing equals vote bartering


La Riviera, La Fontaine and La Renaissance are three highrise towers in West Trinidad where some of the rich and famous reside. I can assure you that payment delinquency is not even a conversation, and if it is, 40-per cent delinquency is not the rate being discussed. It is likely to be less than one per cent.

Why then is Minister Camille Robinson-Regis crying about the 40-per cent delinquency rate for State housing? Isn’t it the same society in which the behaviours are different? The difference in the individual responses lies in the systems, processes and procedures implemented in both circumstances. The residents of La Riviera, La Fontaine and La Renaissance know that they would have to find alternative accommodation if they defaulted on payments.

On the other hand, beneficiaries of State accommodation believe they have bartered their rental payment in exchange for their vote, so they can do whatever they want. A close look at polling division voting results will support this statement. They are also very aware that they will not be evicted for non-payment of rent.

In a report in the Express (July 20, 2022) Housing Minister Robinson-Regis showed an example of how the bartering occurs when she said: ‘Homeowners believe as it’s the Government, they do not have to pay,’ and provided this example in support of her conclusion: ‘People in my own constituency, whose rental is between $100-$250, and yet they owing $50,000, which means from the day they got the unit, they have not paid.’ If the minister knows this, then what has she done to correct this exploitation of the State, and therefore the taxpayer, by her constituents?

The concept of vote bartering continued when the minister talked about wanting homeowners to feel the commitment to pay, and announced that the Government will embark on a public education programme and use the strategies used by former housing minister Randall Mitchell where ‘customers felt the ease to pay up their arrears and not left to feel hounded’.

Had those soft strategies been successful, the minister would not be revealing this current 40-per cent delinquency today, so what is her point?

With the local government election on the near horizon, my interpretation is that this is just another way to send a message to those 40 per cent delinquents that the status quo has their backs and will be gentle on any hounding for legitimate payments. Once again, we are reinforcing a culture of delinquency.

The minister is also making a soft call to the contractors by suggesting that if only they collected the millions in arrears, HDC would be able to pay what they owe.

Accounting is not as simple as this, Madam Minister, so please try another explanation of the Government’s failure to honour its commitment to the contractors.

The real issue here is your Government’s failure to put in place systems, processes and procedures that would encourage a cultural shift and force occupants to pay their rent. If there are no consequences, then why should they make any payments?

For the umpteenth time, citizens are hearing that there is a new application system, but for the word ‘revolutionised’ to be associated with it is to insult our intelligence because digital application systems are the norm globally.

Despite this backwardness, it is, however, encouraging that a digital system was launched. This iteration of the PNM Government has simply dropped the ball on managing and leading this country. Seven years into your term in office, you should be ashamed to be promising many ICT solutions. We should be living those solutions. Your colleagues at the Ministry of Legal Affairs are still e-mailing citizens, telling us to visit their offices to pay the $40 for annual returns.

By not putting the proper systems, processes and procedures in place, you are supporting the culture which accepts non-payment of rent as a norm.

My question is: are citizens voting for you because you know how to manage the country’s business, or are they voting for you because you let all of us get away with slackness? I want to vote for people who can manage the resources of the country in the best interest of the collective.

Dennise Demming

Diego Martin